California gun laws cannot prevent the violence of mass shootings

LOS ANGELES — California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, including several assault weapons bans and other measures intended to keep firearms out of the reach of people who could use them to harm themselves or others. .

Last year, in response to the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting, state legislators, urged on by Gov. Gavin Newsom, an outspoken critic of gun policies in Republican-led states and at the federal level, passed a barrage of new measures.

Yet as the body count from mass shootings continues to pile up in the nation’s most populous state, many Californians are asking: Why? And how?

Gun policy experts said a national culture that accepts routine violence, combined with an inability to enforce gun controls in a state that is surrounded by others where the rules are more lax, means California will continue to grapple with the massive public violence.

“We are part of a culture that celebrates violence as a means of solving problems in a country that has made firearms more widely available than any other industrialized country,” said Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, a ward physician. of emergencies directed by the Violence Prevention Department. Research Program at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center. “We have no right to be surprised when these things happen.”

Authorities said this week they were still investigating where the gunman obtained the guns in the Monterey Park shooting, which killed 11 people and injured several more, and whether such weapons are banned in California. Investigators were also trying to discern whether California law would have prevented the suspect from legally owning guns after a 1994 arrest in which he was charged with illegal possession of a firearm.

Dr. Wintemute said the complexity of California’s gun control laws and the timing of when they went into effect make it difficult to determine the legality of gun ownership by any given person.

Beyond California’s borders, moves by conservative state lawmakers and the Supreme Court to remove restrictions on gun ownership appear to be part of a broader effort to push gun policy to its “logical extreme,” essentially removing all controls, Dr. Wintemute said.

The onus for preventing mass shootings, he said, falls on ordinary Californians, who, unlike Americans in many other states, can report threats from co-workers, family members or associates under the state’s red flag law, which went into effect. effective 2016 and prevents certain people from obtaining firearms.

“We are angry, polarized, exhausted,” Dr. Wintemute said. “All of us have to make the decision to step up and be part of the solution. The only alternative is that this will continue.”